After a string of bad home losses when the club was prioritizing CCL play, the Union has taken four points in their last two matches. There are three more matches to go in the month of May for Philly. They have New York Red Bulls this Saturday, a match at DC United on Sunday, May 23rd, and May’s finale, a match at home vs Portland on Sunday, May 30th. The question is, are the Union on an unbeaten streak that would see them atop the east by the end of May?
Union on an unbeaten streak?
After five matches the Union has a measly five points. While that’s nowhere near where the clubs want to be, it’s not too far off from the top of the eastern conference. Philly is just one win away from tying the point totals of the teams at the top of the east (currently those teams are New England and Montreal). With three weeks until almost a two-week break in play, the Union has a real opportunity to be atop the east at the beginning of June.
Game 1: New York Red Bulls
The Union plays their rivals from North Jersey this Saturday to kick off this crucial three-game stretch. This could be the hardest of the three matches given the style of play of the two teams.
Both New York and Philadelphia play on a 4-4-2 diamond formation and look to press the other side to create counterattacks. Union head coach Jim Curtin said in his presser before this match that the team that comes out on top will come down to the players beating their counterparts on the opposite side.
Just like the midweek New England match, this one has the potential to be a scrappy affair. The Union has been the team on top in the most recent seasons when they play Red Bulls, but will 2021 follow that trend?
Philly will play this match without Jose Martinez, as he’s serving the final game of his suspension. Leon Flach will continue in the number six role, a position he has looked very strong in. He may be the key to stopping Frankie Amaya and Caden Clark who have been the standouts for New York in this young season.
This will be the fourth regular-season home match for Philly in 2021. They’ve yet to win at home in MLS play yet. Will this match against the Red Bulls be the first of many home wins? I think yes! It’ll be a crazy match, but Philly will find the winning goal in a 3-2 game late on!
Game 2: DC United
Philly travels to DC next weekend in the second to last game of May. DC United has had a decent start to their 2021 season taking six points from five matches and currently sit in fifth place in the east. Will they give the Union a run for their money in their first meeting of 2021?
This is the match that head coach Jim Curtin mentioned new signing Dániel Gazdag could make his debut. For that to happen he’d have to make his way to Chester first to train, which either hasn’t happened yet or has been kept under wraps by the club. We’ll see if he is available for this one, but now onto looking forward to this match.
DC United has two wins on the season but also has three losses. They have been very inconsistent. Their two wins against NYCFC in their opening game of the season, and against lowly Chicago are the highs. Losses New England, San Jose and Columbus are the lows. Beating DC seems to be difficult to do at home early this season as they have only won at home. Can Philly find a win at Audi Field?
If the Union can implement their style of play, and if they have their first-choice players available. Then there should be no reason that the Union cannot go into DC and push for all three points. But do they have the metal to do so?
The Union has dominated DC over the last few seasons. Now DC has a new coach in Hernán Losada. He wants his team to attack, attack, attack, which is very different from Ben Olsen. For the Union it’s simple to keep the defensive shape, press DC high up the field, hit them on the counter. This would lead to a 2-1 win for Philly.
Game 3: Portland Timbers
The final game of May is another home match for Philly; which is the only home match they have against a western conference opponent. The Union welcomes Portland Timbers to Subaru park to end the month of May. This game was flexed to national TV on the final Sunday evening of May, so it’s safe to say the league thinks this one will be must-see-tv!
The Timbers are currently at the bottom of the western conference and have felt the effects of being in the early season CCL tournament like Philly has. Portland was just knocked out of CCL by the Union’s semi-final opponent Club America. The hangover for Portland has been strong.
The Timbers have won one game and lost three, and has been injured to start the 2021 season. Will they be able to come across the country to Philly to end the month on a good note? The Union will have to be weary of Portland as they have quality on the field even if they aren’t 100%.
The Union should be at 100% when this match kicks off. If Gazdag was not with the Union for the DC match, he should be avaialbe for this one. This would give a dynamic look in the attack that Philly has been lacking this season. Wheter it would be from the start or off the bench, the front three for the Union needs Gazdag.
At this point, the answer to the question can the Union on an unbeaten streak, would be yes. They would be unbeaten in their last four and could have won in their two matches before this match-up. Portland may still be in the midst of getting healthy and trying to claw their way out of the bottom of the west. Because of that, and because been when not 100% Portland is still ruthless, Is see this as a 1-1 draw. This would give Philly 12 points from their first eight matches.
seven points over three games = 12 points from eight matches
Would seven points from the final three matches answer yes to the question are the Union on an unbeaten streak? Philly would have 12 points from their first eight matches.
For context, in the disjointed start to the 2020 season, that spanned pre-pandemic, MLS is back group-stage and the return to the regular season, saw the Union get 15 points from their first eight matches.
Would you take three fewer points from MLS play for a run to the CCL semifinals? I know I would!
Coming back to 2021, 12 points should be enough to get close to the top of the east, if not stand atop it heading into the early June break. Keep an eye on this budding streak as the Union heads into an important three-week stretch to end May!
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH